I’m often asked how I create new dishes or find ideas on how to pair flavors. Sometimes I’m falling asleep and I think of something delicious, but more often I find inspiration from browsing the work of other cooks. I’ll see something in a magazine, on a menu, or in a cookbook that sounds amazing and I’ll use that as the starting point for my own recipe. I’ll try to recreate restaurant dishes at home using my own methods and a tweak here or there to “make it paleo”. Let’s be honest, most everything in the food world has been tried before. There are plenty of chocolate chip cookie recipes, but I have five or six on my blog because each one has a modification that I wanted to explore. Same goes for chicken soup, chia pudding, and the perfect smoothie. Just Pinterest alone is chock full of any recipe you could ever need. The cool thing about cooking is the freedom to add more or less of anything you desire. Sometimes a flavor combination is what I’m interested in, so I’ll completely change a recipe leaving only a few key ingredients and make something totally different from the original inspiration. My whole cooking career started because I decided to “go paleo” and in order for that to be successful I had to find a way to make my favorite foods without the grains, dairy, and sugar. Back in 2010, there weren’t too many blogs or cookbooks to consult for the perfect paleo pumpkin pie. I had to make it up myself!
The frustrating thing about inspiration is it can be easy to find but not always easy to remember. If its something I see online, I’ll often write it down in my notes. For those who have an iPhone you’re probably familiar with the ‘notes’ app, which looks a little bit like a legal pad of paper. I’ll open up that app and type a name, flavor, link, or part of a recipe to reference later when I’m feeling creative.
I have absolutely no clue where I saw this originally but this little piece of inspiration has been sitting in my notes app for over a year… maybe two. TWO YEARS? I’m not sure why I waited so long to try out this idea. Maybe I felt like it would be a huge undertaking, maybe it was because for the last year and a half I was pregnant and/or in new motherhood and I didn’t want to work too hard for my food. Maybe its because I’ve been on a huge “spice” kick this holiday season. Who knows, and honestly WHO CARES because I’ve finally made it, it’s delicious, and I pretty much want it for every meal.
Pro-Tip: Sunset magazine has great food inspiration, but you almost always have to modify for paleo-friendlness.
Spiced Lamb Shepherd’s Pie
2 lbs. ground lamb
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. oregano
1 eggplant 1/2 sliced into thin rounds, 1/2 peeled and chopped
2 lbs. yams, peeled
1 orange, juice and zest
salt and pepper to taste
crushed pistachios for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 x13 pan with olive oil.
- Heat a pot of water to boiling and add yams. Cook until tender. Set aside.
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat oil over low- medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Sprinkle some salt and pepper
- Sautè until fragrant. Add spices and lamb breaking up the lamb into smaller pieces while mixing in the spice. Add more salt and pepper and let the lamb brown.
- Add diced eggplant, 1/2 of the orange juice, and tomato paste. Simmer until mixture is well cooked and thick. Season to taste.
- In the baking dish, lay eggplant slices flat and add a bit of salt.
- Layer lamb mixture over the eggplant.
- Mash yams with salt, remaining juice and zest from orange.
- Spread mash evenly over the lamb and bake for 20-30 mins until bubbly.
- Serve with crushed pistachios sprinkled on top.